From the Editor

It was twenty-five years ago. My family had arrived at the US border in New York’s La Guardia. I was 18. My brother—five. Our feet were not cut and dirty. We were not met with tear gas. There were questions, many many questions. Our only fear was that we would miss our connecting flight to Cleveland, and we ran, young and old, and we made it. Together. We were given a home and support for four months while we got ourselves settled. This is the America I know.

I cannot imagine being separated from my family at 18. I cannot imagine my brother being separated from us at five. I cannot imagine not having a home. I am lucky.

Many are not that lucky. Not now.

If I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have been able to write what I write or run a literary magazine where I publish the work that I want to publish without fear of government censorship.

Some days, when the news is particularly grim, and I feel helpless and angry, I remind myself that art is what unites us. Art is what speaks across cultures, religions, languages, continents. Art is what might open a heart bypassing a mind that’s closed. And art is a lifeline for many through the most trying of times.  

So let us celebrate the words that might reach many hearts in this autumnal issue of Bracken. It is an achingly beautiful issue, born out of grief for what once was.

Our two fiction pieces in this issue, “Ocean” (by Su-Yee Lin) and “The Garden of Grudges” (by Gwendolyn Kiste), are both tales of mourning.

Our gorgeous cover, by Tom Chambers, hints at another theme running through this issue: birds. Hildegard of Bingen, in her Liber de Subtilitatum, said, "Birds symbolize the power that helps people to speak reflectively and leads them to think out many things in advance before they take action. Just as birds are lifted up into the air by their feathers and can remain wherever they wish, the soul in the body is elevated by thought and spreads its wings everywhere." I think it is fitting for us to be wishing right now to be lifted out of our physical tensions, even if just for a change of perspective, or for a deep breath, so we can continue renewed.

In “Alone in the Wild Dark” by Allen Braden, the “shush of wings” keeps you company; “Spotted owls are the first to go” in “Get Out” by Heidi Seaborn; a mythic transformation “soaring from that meadow in a mist” awaits in “Still Cutting It” by John Lancaster; and finches in “velvet suits of black and beige” pay a visit at an auspicious time in “A Flurry of Finches” by Tina Schumann.

Nostalgia is a kind of grief, an awareness of time passing. In “Rubied Leaves,” Toni La Ree Bennett writes “I feel like an autumn leaf, aged around the edges.” In David Underdown’s “Dark Star,” he tells us “how that night was / how we imagined it might have been.” In “What Canvas,” JC Miller laments, “What opulence / is loss, this wrinkled skin....” Grief too “sets aflame the skin of Jenning's Pond” in “Villanelle” by Roger W. Hecht.

I am haunted by the images in “Landscape with Houses” by Kristen Havens. It brings up the past and our possible future: “This was my home, / eyes everywhere.”

There are echoes of our fiction and poems in our visual art section. Colleen Parker’s work explores beauty in decay. Christopher Woods’ photography could be lost photographs from your attic, or could be dreamscapes. Two Worlds by Morgan Binkerd meditates on the world in the details of a leaf. And Rhett Pritchard’s photography conveys a different sense of the American South, a region with a complicated past and present, and its undeniable beauty.

Also in this issue, I chat with Tom Chambers about his creative process, inspiration, and stories.

A thousand thanks to Jed Myers, Jessica Bixel, Ted McMahon, Andrew Gordon, Erin Slomski-Pritz, Charlotte d’Huart, Kimberly Huebner, and Bridget Nee for all their help in bringing this issue together.

Let this issue uplift and inspire. Let the beautiful truths shared in this issue take you through the “winter of our discontent” and into the spring with “Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings, / Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.”

Alina Rios